Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: understanding

What’s Obvious for You…

…might be an unknown for others. Which isn’t so much an issue until you, oh yes, we’re going there…assume. Consider a meeting with a vendor or a prospect (sometimes you’re the salesperson, others, you’re the one buying), and they keep bringing up a term. It sounds important, and perhaps even central to their thesis, but it is never explained. Let’s be honest, you have no idea what they are talking about.

We’ve all been in that situation, where everyone seems to know something we don’t. How does that make you feel?

A natural response is, “why don’t you just ask?” And let others see your weakness? Never!

The more common reaction is to push away what makes you feel “not ok”. In this case, it would be the other party in the meeting. As you can imagine, chasing out potential partners isn’t a great way to expand, so how do we find a happy medium?

Let’s step into a new pair of shoes, this time, those of that person who made you feel inferior. Can we agree they were not aiming to insult you or give you overt rationale to send you away? They made a mistake; they assumed, and you know what happens when we assume. (If you see what I did there, fantastic, if not, that’s ok: I made an assumption of you knowing the oft-repeated line regarding assuming, “you make an ‘a**’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’!” This would be a great example of what you want to avoid.)

Back to the meeting. How could it have been handled to keep everyone “ok”? For starters, ensure everyone is on the same page, on everything. It is possible you have heard advice regarding use of industry jargon. Short answer? It’s all correct. A credit union which does no indirect lending may not know how the process works, what the terminology is with the dealers, or even the competition. Beginning a discussion on dealer fees, then referencing DealerTrack (a principal source dealers use to search loan options), may put the unknowing CU representative in an uncomfortable spot. Bottom line: If a random person doesn’t understand you, the person sitting across the desk or on the other end of the phone may not either.

Why am I writing a post on something which, in hindsight, seems so obvious? Because we did it, too. During a meeting with one of our credit union clients, we began a discussion of one of our services, mentioning another place members can get a loan. However, this alternative is a last-resort option, known for very high rates and challenging terms (there’s no question the credit union was a far better choice). We presented it directly, “as a credit union, you are in a perfect position to serve these members and truly improve their lives.” Sales strategies aside, this is entirely accurate. However, the credit union executive was not familiar with this other loan source, and, likely not wishing to feel silly, didn’t ask. Nor did we explain. It created a situation where they wanted to make any excuse to say no because it was uncomfortable.

In that scenario, it was our failure. We assumed, and were wrong. In the future, we are going to address these potential issues up-front. We will ask if they are familiar with any terminology before discussing. We might say, “I don’t suppose you are familiar with so-and-so products?” If they respond, “yes, we are”, then great, we move forward. But it gives them a moment to say, without showing any weakness, “actually, no, would you mind discussing that further?”

We’re all on the same page, and suddenly, what’s obvious for you…

…is obvious to them, too.

Kids Understand the Darnedest Things

We’re back on topic, with reading levels. Last time, we discussed what can be gained by writing in a fashion that everyone can understand (hint: a lot). Today, we are going to learn how to measure our writing, at what level we should aim, and why even bother.

How to Measure?

There are many reading measurements, and each gives a fixed numeric value. With complex names such as “Raygor Estimate Graph, Flesch Reading Ease, and Spache Formula,” they sound pretty daunting. We’re not going to worry about their details, just that they exist and can help us determine if others can understand what is written. So what do they measure? Each is different, but a combination of word length, syllables, and words per sentence is common.

What Level?

This may surprise you, but the average American understands what they read best when it is a 7-8th grade reading level. Please realize, the grade level does not reflect intelligence, rather, the degree of complexity (or lack thereof) to ensure your writing is understood. After I complete a blog post, I scan it with reading level calculators to learn how close to my goal it is. That doesn’t mean my content is basic, rather, I write to be understood, not go over a reader’s head. Feel free to check any of this blog’s previous entries in one of the calculators. Then, take a look at the level popular news sources and books are written. Time aims for 9th grade. The New York Times, 10th. John Grisham, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, and many other bestsellers write at a 7th grade reading level.

Why Bother?

Alongside the rapid development and implementation of newly-fostered ideas, which serve to educate and inform a willing industry populace, technology has offered a template with which we can communicate our desires, strategies, and results so as to generate a loftier goal for all.

That sentence is why. Because saying something in long statements, with big words, designed to make you sound “smart”, helps no one. Here’s that same sentence, brought down to Earth:

We all have great ideas, and technology has made sharing them with others so much easier. Our industry is better due to your contribution.

Which was easier to understand?

  • The grade level estimate of the first sentence is a whopping 23, which can be interpreted as graduate level content. Its reading ease, where higher is better, and 60+ is a good aim, scored 8.4.
  • The modified segment offered a grade level of 7.8 and a reading ease of 60.7. It’s not just you, the second selection is mathematically simpler to comprehend.

Keep this in mind when you’re drafting new content for your website, newsletters, and mailed content. If your writing is too complex, it’s as if you are wasting half (or more) of your mailings. I’d encourage you to learn about and embrace reading level calculators, then go forth and compose!

For reference, this post has a Flesch Reading Ease (higher is better) of 72.4 and is written at an average grade level of 7.6.

Write to Educate, Not Confuse

It is an altogether established fact, contrary to what logic may dictate, amongst the academic and corporate business worlds, both literary cognizant populaces, that composing documents with a willingness to dig deeply into the complexity of the language being composed enables widespread viewership and understanding.

So, did that make any sense to you? Don’t feel bad if you needed to read it a few times to get the gist; that’s not unusual. When you are trying to get a point across, do you want to muddy the waters of understanding with overly complex writing? To say something in many words that could be said in few?

I spent many years within the academic world, receiving a Master’s degree in my field. You won’t believe how many papers I read (and conversations I had) where the level of discussion was so high none of us understood what was going on! It’s as if to be seen as credible and intelligent, you must express your ideas at a level above that of the average person.

Well that’s convenient. Just talk above everyone’s head; hasn’t that always been the best way to explain yourself?

Unfortunately, it happens outside the world of Ph.Ds (even they need to re-read the tough sections!). You see it on the news and in industry publications…but where do you never see this? That’s right, marketing.

As a marketer, your goal is to catch the audience’s interest long enough to present your idea and motivate them to take action. That may mean visiting a website, going to a dealer, buying a product, etc. If your limited time is spent confusing a potential customer, you can imagine how it affects sales.

Ok, class. It’s research time!

When you’re presenting or writing in your preferred field, I’m sure you can discuss at a very high level. In fact, it’s probably when you get most excited. Details, complexity, rationale, and research! This is awesome! And your audience is lost. They’re not dumb, just in that area, they’re not as advanced as you. Which is ok. Talk to me about fashion or accounting at an advanced level, and I’ll give you a blank stare that truly has nothing behind it. But, bring up technology, world news, or other topics where I hold an understanding and interest (those usually go together), I’m engaged and following, no matter how in-depth you get. Understanding all depends on how easily read your material can be.

Imagine this: You’re offering a new accounting platform, I mean completely new to the industry, but it is wildly great. Cuts hours out of doing payroll, tax filing, and even finds more deductions than anything else on the market. You know your product totally, absolutely rocks. But I have no interest or understanding, remember? However, as a business owner, I’m the exact target of your marketing…I’m who would benefit the most from your solution. How do you present it to me? Do you dig into the complexities of how it works, using long, drawn-out sentences? Do you present me a 10-page research summary about how it achieves such great results?

Of course not! You simplify it down to its most basic level.

We’re here to change perceptions. We believe accounting should save you money and time, not consume it. That novices and experts alike can generate equal results. We believe your finances can be well-managed without needing a degree. To this end, we created our Accounting Plus platform. So you can do what you do best: running your business.

So go forth and be simple! The next (scheduled) post will connect this concept to reading levels. You won’t believe what grade level your writing should be.

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